Fwd: Labor Reaches Out to Global Economy

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at Princeton.EDU
Wed Apr 12 09:49:47 PDT 2000

>[Rakesh, you endorse the Chamber of Commerce/NAM view?]

Doug, many of these mfgs don't want free trade. As I shall repeat again, they want regional agreements that give duty free acess only as long as crucial inputs are bought within said region; they want duty free advantages/ big quotas only for their foreign partners who are using their inputs; many capitalists don't want indiscriminate access to markets. Don't let capital hijack the free trade/multilateral trading issue.

The trading system is rigged to provide subsidies to the US auto industry and big parts of the textile industry. Free trade and distress exports can only unsettle such free trade agreements. The bidnessman's support of "globalization" should not be taken as more than an embrace of regionalization by which their yarn, fabric production is defacto protected.

Of course some kind of import surge protection is needed to protect against distress exports--we can support Becker and Tom Lehmann here (but what about that Vijay Singh); however, multilateral trading that reverses the regional drift is also needed. We need labor rallies in defense of globalization, in favor of cheap commodities breaking down the walls of regional agreements and thereby creating a more integrated world economy.

>"As long as they are marching to oppose free trade, it kind of
>stretches credulity for them to talk about freedom" for foreign
>workers, said U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokesman Frank Coleman,
>echoing other business groups.

Same therefore applies to members of his organization and the reactionary congresspersons of both parties they have bought off to oppose initiatives in Africa and the Caribbean.

>As for labor, union leaders insist that it isn't free trade they
>oppose, but trade policies that exploit cheap labor abroad, often at
>the expense of U.S. workers.

Gimme a break. outsourcing pits American workers against American workers, and probably accounts for more downward pressure on wages than the addition of China would, given that labor paradise to our immediate south which is already easily available. How much actual quantitative difference is China going to make in terms of downard pressure on wages. We don't need anti China hysteria but some ball park number. How many jobs will created if FDI by multinationals for serving the domestic market creates a stream of imports, especially capital goods which are in ever present danger of being idled?

Note that opposition to China is often not now on grounds that defeat of PNTR itself will stop downward pressure on wages/employment ( a complicated question) but that in absence of China, a social clause becomes possible and therewith some improvement, however marginal, of labor's bargaining position.

Basically we have US labor marching against PNTR (with the tacit support of cowardly capitalist groupings which have left it to labor to support the regionalism from which they profit) , the AFL CIO urging for the right to use social clauses against China (and Cambodia, India, etc) if it still does ascend to the WTO and thereby protect those Millikan like fiefdoms, and generally making common cause with militarists, xenophobes, Gary Bauer Christians,etc who all have their own perverse reasons to keep China out.

Sure, there are good people at A16 worried about the debt and the dead hand of the IMF, but they're going to have to sharpen the divisions within this movement. I have been yanking chains here. But not gratuitously. I think there is a lot at stake, and we should be clear about whether we want to march against globalism or regionalism or at least which aspects of globalism.

>For taking that stand, labor has paid a price. Mr. Sweeney, the
>AFL-CIO chief, said some foreign governments are suspicious of
>labor's motives, suspecting the American unions are out simply to
>protect their own workers' jobs.

Well it's protectionism to insist that US imports have to be used in US destined exports as key ingredients even if this can only raise costs and thereby reduce wages.

Again as I have been saying, the application of these social clauses which are meant to ensure valorization and protection of imperialist capital may actually worsen labor conditions from which US labor will look the other way (as in Bangladesh) when costly US "export content" laws have been met to satisfaction. Gimme a break. Are core labor standards now met in Mexico? Social clauses are just a mechanism by which to protect American capital and its foreign partners. And that's what Mexico is doing by having to use US inputs to get duty free access.

Such tidy arrangement can't be enforced if the regional agreements and bilateral pressures by which this protection is now achieved are voided by free trade or free trade without a social clause .

Yours, Rakesh

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